Expedition Diaries 2016

June 22. Day 16

June 22. Day 16

The morning today is sleepy as at night we picked up the group of expedition participants from Varnek. The waves were still high, so when they finally reached the vessel, they were soaking wet. However, we didn’t manage to load a hydroplane on board.

Celestrial phenomena.

It is very foggy and humid, the deck is wet. And in the sky we could see a pale rainbow. I call it pale because it is not colourful, it’s almost white, but very bright. The moon at night was really huge. I spent a lot of time on the upper deck and got very cold waiting for it to come out of the dark clouds. The moon also looked pale, as it was dimmed by the night sun, but it didn’t spoil the picture. On the other hand, it looked very romantic.

While I was waiting for the moon, I managed to take a picture of black birds flying by very fast. They were absolutely black, and though they were far away, I could say for sure that they are not guillemots or geese. Irina Pokrovskaya said that they had to be black scoters, or, in simple words, absolutely black sea ducks.

During the lunchtime everybody greeted each other with “Good morning!”, the lectures started only at 1.30 pm. The first lecture was about the space: Alexey Sazonov explained how satellites scan the Earth surface. Satellite observations can be either passive or active. Passive means that the satellite is flying shooting everything below it in both visible and other range. Active observations mean that the satellite sends out a signal and receives the reflected signal. Active radar mapping, for example, allows to see what is located under snow or vegetation layer.  By the way, there are electronic collections of space images, many of them are free.

Some more words about benefits of hats.

Dr Natalie Patey from Montreal, Canada, called her lecture “Physiological adaptation to cold temperatures”, but she also spoke about human body adaptation to heat.

Well, women of generous size feel much better in the Arctic as, according to Natalie’s graphs, they feel cold slower than the others. I have long hands and legs, which get ice-cold at once, so I would feel much better in Africa. Neanderthalers were adapted to cold – they were lower and stumpier than modern people.

Natalie spoke in detail about how different organism “layers” react to temperature decrease: cells, blood vessels, separate organs and the whole system. It was a right decision to tell those on the deck without hats to go inside: human body is trying to keep the most important organs – brain and heart – warm first and foremost. So we’d better help our body and not hinder it.

After Natalie’s lecture there was a discussion: is water with the temperature of +40oC warm or hot? We didn’t manage to reach a consensus…

- How fast does a person from tropical area adapt to cold temperatures? – asked Maria Novitasari.

- And how fast did you adapt? Was it quick?

Maria nodded.

The medical module members have become pretty local in Varnek. They lived in the club and during 10 days which they spent in the settlement they managed to get acquainted with all local residents. They examined 100 people whose age differed from 1 year to almost 80. 58 people will take part in the research project which is much applied: the research focuses on the risk of cardio-vascular disease progression. The tests were made with the help of a special devise called “EndoPat”. When the module leader, Nadezhda Alexandrovna Vorobieva was asked about the preliminary results, she said that the health of city dwellers was in poorer condition.  

They also worked as local medical workers: conducted general examination, electrocardiogram, helped a boy who had been bitten by a lemming. One of the most widespread conditions is hernia as everybody here carries heavy objects, for example, buckets of water. Varnek residents use mostly melt-water or river water, though not now: river water is still dirty as ice had melted not so long ago.

As Vaygach is located in the north, the module members were not ready that it would be so warm there: the temperature was about +30oC every day.

- We didn’t have any suitable clothes! We brought a lot of warm things with us which we mostly didn’t use!

On the hottest day the group went to Diakonov Cape, it is a famous place where the idols are located.

- Vladimir Bobrikov, the settlement elder, offered to lead us there and said that it is about 7 km away from the settlement. I think, we have covered a route of almost 35 km. When we were going back, we asked if we would come home soon. Vladimir answered that is was over that hill. As soon as we climbed that hill, we saw that there were 50 other hills to climb. 7 km distance is when you “draw” a straight line on the map. Our guide was right, if we had known how far away it actually was we would have never agreed to go there.

There is another representative of Canada on board in the AFU-2016 expedition – her name is Annick Valleau. She is also a representative of Switzerland. Annick’s task is to learn what Floating University is, she can be called a sort of a journalist. Next year 18 students from interdisciplinary programs from three Swiss universities (the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne and the Engineering School which is also located in Lausanne) are to take part in the expedition. They study natural science, geology, communication, journalism and law. The common topic for all of them is climate change. The AFU-2017 expedition is planned to reach Franz Josef Land, so today Annick and me were thinking about possible topics for the Humanities module and the Legal module.  The latter can, for example, focus on polar bears issue in Russian legislation.

Annick is really impressed and excited about the Novaya Zemlya glaciers and Varnek residents. It was much easier for her to talk to them in comparison with other expedition members from abroad as Annick can speak Russian. She can also speak French, English, Italian, German and Spanish. She studied Russian in Italy and spent 6 months in Irkutsk working on her thesis on the topic “The Civil Society in Siberia”.

Today is Denis Avdeev’s birthday. Yesterday the birthday cake was cooked from everything which could be found: ginger bread, condensed milk, peanuts and one meringue used as a cake decoration. The cake was nice and tasty. Denis was worried that it would be hard to cut it into 60 pieces, but we managed to accomplish this task.

Photo competition.

Yesterday the photo competition was announced: each module was suggested to pick photographs in accordance with 10 topics and present them creatively to the public. The most popular plot was focused on carrying expedition participants on other expedition participants’ backs over water obstacles.

The Cultural landscapes module team was a winner: they got 223 points from the jury, love of the audience and a can of condensed milk decorated with a bow.

Tomorrow a landing at Kolguev is planned. Dmitry Kovalev, our full-time weather observer, says that the coast around Bugrino is a mysterious place. According to the forecast, the weather is windy tomorrow. 


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Updated 20.06.2016